(Title from Santigold's "You'll Find a Way")
First round matchup: Nashville Predators
The young Blackhawks of Chicago have proved to many that age and experience means nothing. If the last post-season didn't prove that, then you have been living under a rock. The 2010 Winter Games proved the same thing with USA and Canada having the most in-experienced team in terms of Olympics, but won the silver and gold respectively.
There are doubts about this team winning the Cup, I don't deny that. I am one of those doubters. But this team looks like it has a very high chance of making it to the conference finals a 2nd year around.
What the Blackhawks, like many other teams, have going for them is scoring. Young stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith (to name a few) have risen up and made themselves household names. Not only can they produce points, but they are leaders.
And like many other teams, they have goalie issues. Last season they had the Bulin Wall. Now that's gone to Edmonton (but more like the injury reserve list), and they have Antti Niemi and Cristobal Huet. Aren't exactly the names you associate with elite goaltending.
Surprising to most though, Niemi has the 4th best GAA at just 2.25; Huet at 12th with 2.50. Albeit that is 0.28 more than the the league's leader Tuukka Rask, but that fraction of a number is a big number in hockey terms. But amongst active goalies, Niemi has the 20th best save percentage (.912%)
On a performance level, because the defence is so good in Chicago, goaltending doesn't get tested so much. And when it does, it tends to let in a questionable goal. But we have to keep in mind, the playoffs are a whole new level of hockey than regular season hockey.
Back on the D: the D is good. I really like the Chicago defence. The puck movement skills, the on-ice intelligence, the shut down abilities, and the two-way game that the defencemen play is by far excellent! There are moments of a slip-up here and there, but what team is perfect? None, I tell you.
The concern I have on the offence is the disappearing acts of some of their skaters. Sometimes, their power (or powerful) forwards just disappear. When they don't show up, their liklihood of winning the game goes lower.
What they shouldn't change (other than a lot of their defence) is their PK. They have the NHL's 4th best PK; killing 85.3% of their penalties. And out of all the teams in the West going to the playoffs, they have the best PK. And a key to killing off penalties is the faceoff; that they win 52.4% of the ones they take. That's good enough for 3rd best in the NHL.
If the defence does its job, and the offence continues producing like they have all season (minus their mis-games) their playoffs will be a long one.
Chicago's Captain Serious:
Seriously, Patrick Kane gotta keep that mouthguard where it ought to be!